London - A British cruise ship was branded "Benidorm on the sea" after drunken passengers hurled crockery and chairs at each other in a mass brawl during a black-tie dinner.
Families fled in terror as guests fought each other on the P&O Britannia as it sailed to Southampton after a week-long voyage to Norway’s fjords.
Trouble broke out at the evening do after hundreds had spent the afternoon drinking at a "Great British Sailaway" party around two swimming pools on the deck to mark the cruise’s final leg.
A mother who was with her young son said many of the passengers were obnoxious and just there to "drink as much as they could".
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "From the moment we embarked on the ship we found many of the other guests to be rude, have zero manners or respect for others. The boat was basically Benidorm-on-Sea with a me, me, me attitude.
"We found many people were there purely to drink as much as they could with their unlimited drinks packages. My son has been shoved, almost pushed on to a train track by other guests rushing to get on the P&O train trip before us and had his hand burnt by a man jostling him at the buffet with no apology or care shown."
The woman said the experience had put her off going on another cruise. She said she pitied the staff who had been "helpful and lovely".
Revellers at the afternoon party on the liner’s Lido Deck waved Union flags and sang along to Land Of Hope And Glory. They were later encouraged to change into black tie for dinner. Afterwards, those who wished to continue drinking gathered in the Horizon buffet restaurant on the 16th deck, which is open until 2am.
Police said five passengers and a crew member suffered severe bruising, cuts and scratches in the fracas, which began in the early hours of Friday in the Horizon. Witnesses reported that blood was smeared "everywhere".
A man, 43, and a woman, 41, from Chigwell, Essex, were arrested on suspicion of assault when the ship docked on Saturday morning. The pair were released on Sunday but remain under investigation.
Early reports said violence broke out after a passenger dressed as a clown gatecrashed the black-tie party. Good Morning Britain reporter Richard Gaisford, who was on the cruise, said staff were told the incident was sparked by the appearance of the clown.
His account was supported by one of the ship’s entertainers, who said: "There was a person dressed as a clown and this upset the other passengers. Things got out of hand very quickly.
"Chairs and plates were being thrown. It was shocking to see and some of the staff and passengers were scared and had to hide."
However, P&O Cruises and Hampshire police said a clown was not the cause.
Passenger Martin Symons, 54, from Plymouth, said: "I saw four people fighting and they were pulling hair and shouting.
"One of the men was out of control, he had his shirt all ripped open. He was beating up a woman who seemed to be one of the other men’s wives. They were being kicked in the head and one woman’s earrings were pulled out."
Launched by the Queen in 2015, the Britannia is the largest of P&O’s seven vessels and can carry 3 647 passengers.